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The dark side of wildlife  souvenirs

Everyone likes to buy souvenirs to bring home with them after their travels; they can be a great way to remember your trip. However, some of the souvenirs on offer around the world have a dark secret and could be seriously harming the local wildlife.

Turtle shell products

Turtles are beautiful animals; however all seven species of sea turtle have a conservation status of vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. This is worrying information and clearly these animals need protection, yet in some destinations jewellery and home decorations made from turtle shells are on sale. These products are usually sold in the Caribbean and other tropical destinations. The sale of turtle shell products is illegal in most countries, yet it continues to be a problem. It is the critically endangered hawksbill turtle that is most affected by this illegal trade, as its shell provides the characteristic ‘tortoiseshell’ pattern.

Flickr | TchamiCoral

Coral is made up of many tiny animals, known as polyps that make up a colony surrounded by a hard outer shell. Corals can take years to form their calcium carbonate shells, meaning they are vulnerable if damaged, as they take a long time to regenerate, if at all. The brightly coloured outer shells of coral are used to make jewellery in many parts of the world. These accessories can sell for high prices but the cost is also high to the reefs they are taken from.

Jewellery production isn’t the only threat to coral populations; they are also at risk from factors such as climate change, which is causing rising sea temperatures. Coral is the basis of the ecosystem on any reef and without it the reef system will essentially collapse, therefore it is best not to purchase souvenirs involving coral in order to avoid contributing to the damage of already vulnerable reefs.

Flickr | Christian GloorSnake wine

Snake wine is quite simply a bottle of wine with a whole dead snake coiled inside it, delicious… Unlike the other two products listed, you can tell that this ‘souvenir’ obviously involves an animal just from a glance. Many different species of snake are used to make this product; sometimes even endangered species are used. Found mainly in locations around Asia, the novelty of this drink appeals to some tourists. It is best to avoid this alcohol during your travels, as the process involved in making it can be inhumane and the use of endangered species may have a detrimental impact on wild populations.

Flickr | Petr KosinaSo if you’re keen to remain conscious and responsible on your travels it’s a good idea to avoid these products, as well as any other souvenirs made of or containing wildlife products. Seeing these animals in their natural habitat, such as diving with sea turtles is so much better than wearing them as an accessory! There are also so many other ways of supporting the local economy in the areas you visit that don’t harm the native wildlife.

By Gabrielle Brooks - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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